Monday, October 31, 2011

Preparing for Holiday Cooking: Organizing the Pantry

This time of year is great for organizing the pantry. It gives you a chance to organize your food items to see what is on hand for the increased cooking that comes with the holidays. The purging of unneeded items as well as organizing what you are keeping will open up space for the extra items you bring in for special holiday dishes.

It doesn't matter if you have a very small pantry of only a few shelves or a large walk in pantry, after a year things will have gotten out of order and need organization.

Organize your pantry like a grocery store. Have all pastas and grains in one area. Put all canned goods in another area, separating vegetables, fruit, soups, etc. If you have more than one can of green beans or tomato soup, put the newer cans behind the older cans in order to keep rotating your food. While going through the process of organizing the cans and condiments, take a look at expiration or "best used by" dates. Discard cans that are past their expiration date and donate cans of items you bought some time ago but have no plan of using soon. This will open up your shelves for holiday shopping.

Think before you stock up on large quantities on a sale. Will you really use all those cans before they expire? Do you have space to store the cans in a usable manner? Are you saving enough money or time shopping by buying in bulk to make up for the inconvenience of cramming your shelves or having to look elsewhere to store the extras? Next year will you find 10 cans of pumpkin in the garage along with the 20 rolls of paper towels?

Once organized, you will be surprised at how much space you now have for your holiday shopping.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Friday, October 14, 2011

Surviving the Holidaze

Is it possible for your holidays to feel peaceful and stress free? To capture that Norman Rockwell feeling?
Thanksgiving is marketed before Halloween. Christmas ads show up way before Thanksgiving. New Year's Eve champagne party ads collide with Christmas carols. And Kwanzaa and Chanukah wedge their ads in between, over and under the big 3 - Turkey Day, Santa Clause, and the crashing crystal ball over Times Square. This overlapping of holiday marketing drives our spirit to tears.
The holidays become a time of long "to do" lists, overcommitment, overbuying, overeating, and sleep deprivation.

How do we skip this Holiday stress?
  1. Have a clear vision of what you want for your holidays - no, really, imagine exactly what your perfect holiday would look like and feel like.
  2. Discover the visions of other members of your family - they are probably different from yours.
  3. Have a family meeting and write down every one's goals - compromise - then put agreed events on the calendar.
  4. Put not only events on the calendar but also all projects like decorating, shopping, baking, and sending out cards.
  5. If the calendar looks overwhelming - again communicate and delete some items. Leave some empty space for the unexpected and some time just to enjoy your home.
  6. Follow the plan on your calendar but don't let the calendar rule you. You can change items. Remain flexible.
The most important idea here is that you need to know what you want and plan for it to happen. This can greatly reduce your holiday stress.

Happy Holidays to you all!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Organizing the Kitchen Zone

If you are following the zone plan, October is a great month to organize your kitchen for a couple of reasons. First, you will soon be in that kitchen a lot preparing foods for the holidays. How much easier this will be if everything is organized and at your fingertips. Secondly, this is a time for many canned food drives so while you are in there cleaning out your pantry, find foods that you have bought and not used (but have not expired) and pass them on to a charity.

You will also have zones within your kitchen. There will be a cooking zone, a food preparation zone, a dishes zone, a food storage zone, and a food serving zone.

The cooking zone includes the stove, oven and microwave as well as your pots, pans, bake-ware, and cooking utensils. As yourself when organizing in this zone if your lifestyle has changed. Are you still holding on to items just because you once used them? Are you doing as much baking as you once did? Are you still using the big pots and the roaster? If the answer is "Yes, but I only use them seasonally." then store these seldom used items with the seasonal decorations and clear up space in your kitchen for day to day food preparation.

The food preparation zone includes the refrigerator as well as cutting boards, knives, mixing bowls, spices, mixers, blenders and measuring cups/spoons. As you sort like items together, continue to get rid of multiples and items you are no longer using. When organizing your refrigerator, set up zones there as well. Have a diary zone, a snack zone, a leftover zone, a fresh produce zone or whatever fits your life style. Having zones in your fridge helps you save money, time, and make the best use of your space.

Your dishes zone will include your sink and dishwasher as well as your dishes, bowls, mugs, glasses and flatware. Keep the items you use most frequently on the easiest to access shelves. Get rid of cracked, broken, or no longer used items.

Your food storage zone is the area you use as a pantry. Donate foods that have been hanging around and not used. Toss out expired items. Group your foods into categories the same as a store might. Have all soups together, pasta together, and group vegetables with vegetables, and fruit with fruit. This helps you see what you have and keeps you from losing items on the back of the shelf.

Your food serving zone may be partly in a dining area as it includes placemats, napkins, trivets, and large serving pieces. As you organize these items give away or toss unwanted or unused pieces.

Now your kitchen should feel less crowded and you will enjoy using it to prepare your holiday treats.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer